NBA DEEP DIVE- March 30, 2017


High Priced ($8,500+)


James Harden is dealing with a wrist injury that he said is affecting his shot…and I really do not care. At all.  Harden fills up the stat sheet with assists and rebounds, and he also gets to the free throw line at will, so it is not as concerning that his jump shot is off as it would be for other players.  The injury initially occurred on March 18th.  He finished that game with 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for a total of 73.5 DraftKings points.  In his four games since then, he has produced 72.75, 80.75, 46.25 and 61.25 DraftKings points.  His field goal percentage has been higher than his season average in three of those games, with the most recent (5-for-20) being the exception.  His three-point percentage has suffered more than his overall field goal percentage, which makes sense, but he is facing a Portland team that does not offer much in the way of rim protection.  Roster Harden with confidence at a weak shooting guard position in the game with the highest Vegas total of the night.


Jimmy Butler is forced to carry the Chicago offense with Dwyane Wade sidelined and he faces off against LeBron James and the Cavaliers tonight.  Cleveland has the worst defensive rating in the NBA since the start of March, allowing 114.5 points per 100 possessions.  Since Wade’s injury, Butler has a 26.8 usage rate and is averaging 24.5 points, 8.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per 36 minutes- which translates to 1.38 DraftKings points per minute.  He has had success against LeBron in previous meetings this season, averaging 1.21 DraftKings points per minute- which is above his season average of 1.14 points per minute in games that Dwyane Wade played. Butler’s price is up to $10,000 on DraftKings and FanDuel but he makes for a very strong play against a Cleveland defense that is incapable of stopping anyone right now.


Karl-Anthony Towns has a great matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, who are playing at the third fastest pace this month and are slightly behind the Cavs in the race for worst defensive rating in the NBA.  Towns is somewhat overpriced for his median projection, but he has a ton of upside in a very good matchup against a soft Los Angeles frontcourt.  Over the last four weeks, Towns has a 29.9 usage rate, just behind Andrew Wiggins for second on the team, and is averaged 1.23 DraftKings points per minute.  In two games against the Lakers this season, Towns has averaged 1.20 DraftKings points per minute- including a 25 point, 13 rebound overtime performance 6 days ago.  The only downside to Towns is that he is relatively more expensive on DraftKings, where he is power forward eligible, and he is a center on FanDuel where there are very high-upside options in the middle tier.  Regardless, Towns has plenty of upside in this matchup if you can make him fit.


Secondary:  LeBron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving


Mid-Range ($5,500-$8,400)


Ricky Rubio has been fantastic for almost a month now, since Tom Thibodeau said that he needed to start shooting more.  He has attempted at least 10 field goals in every game since March 4th and is averaging 1.18 DraftKings points per minute with a 24.4 usage rate over the last four weeks.  The Lakers have allowed the most points per 36 minutes and second most assists per 36 minutes to opposing guards since the start of March and Rubio will be the beneficiary tonight.  Rubio scored 19 points to go along with 15 assists in their meeting earlier this week and we should expect a similar line tonight as the Lakers are going to have trouble stopping the Minnesota offense as a whole.


Tyler Ulis has a tough matchup against Chris Paul tonight, but he should be able to make up for any inefficiencies with sheer volume and minutes played.  Ulis is averaging 40.3 minutes per game over his last five games and should see huge minutes tonight, especially if Devin Booker remains sidelined.  If Booker and Barbosa are both active, then there is a little more risk because he could lose a few minutes, but the Suns still want to see him play heavy minutes so it would be surprising to see him drop below the 35 or 36-minute mark.  His price is elevated, but reasonable, on DraftKings, but he is criminally underpriced on FanDuel.  Ulis has played 448 minutes in the last four weeks without Bledsoe or Knight on the floor and he has a 21.1 usage rate in those minutes, averaging 0.83 FanDuel points per minute.  At his current FanDuel price, he only needs to average about 0.75 points per minute to reach 5x his salary in 40 minutes, so there is clearly upside despite a less than ideal matchup.


C.J. McCollum is fresh off of torching the Denver Nuggets and gets another great matchup with the Rockets.  McCollum is inconsistent, even in good matchups, but has a massive ceiling for a low-mid $7,000 price tag at a weak shooting guard position.  McCollum continues to be the point guard with the second unit as the Blazers stagger his minutes with Damian Lillard.  McCollum has a 23.3 percent usage rate alongside Lillard over the last four weeks and it climbs to 36.1 percent when Lillard is replaced by Evan Turner.  McCollum has scored at least 20 real points against the Rockets in each of his last three matchups with them and has the opportunity for another big game tonight.


Andrew Wiggins went through a streak where he was very unproductive and it coincided with Ricky Rubio beginning to shoot more.  It seems that they have figured out how to coexist now, as Wiggins has a 32.7 percent usage rate over the last two weeks.  He is still a scoring dependent player, which limits his floor and his ceiling, but his price is very reasonable for a fast-paced game against a Lakers team that has nobody to defend him.  Wiggins has attempted at least 17 shots in six of his last seven games and, although it has not translated into consistent fantasy production due to poor shooting, the upside is clearly there- as he showed with a 36 real point outburst against the Lakers earlier this week.

Trevor Ariza has been very productive at the four for the Rockets with Ryan Anderson sidelined.  A matchup with a small Portland team should serve Ariza very well as he will be in line for more rebounds along with the increased usage that he sees without Anderson in the lineup.  Ariza’s two game logs without Anderson are skewed upwards by steal totals of 6 and 3, but this is a very good matchup for him.  Ariza has averaged 0.90 FanDuel points per minute against the Blazers this season and that number should increase slightly without Anderson available.  Take advantage of being able to roster a power forward at the small forward position.


Kevin Love makes for an excellent GPP target as his minutes can be deceiving if you just look at his game logs.  Over his last five games, he is averaging just 27.2 minutes per game.  That is not predictive of what he will play tonight, however, as it includes games where he was being limited while returning from injury.  It also includes 27 minutes in a blowout against the Spurs in his last game.  Love played about 17 minutes in the first half of that game, however, and played 33 minutes against the Wizards.  If the game against Chicago stays close, and it probably will since it is in Chicago and the Cavaliers cannot play defense, Love should see around 35 minutes.  This gives him a ton of upside at his price that has not reached its normal range since his return from injury.


Brook Lopez has a matchup against Andre Drummond and the Pistons that he absolutely thrives in and his price relative to Jusuf Nurkic should keep his ownership down somewhat in GPPs.  In five games against Drummond dating back to last season, Lopez has averaged 1.38 DraftKings points per minute, with DraftKings totals of 52.2, 33.8, 42.2, 57.8 and 40.2.  Drummond has proved incapable of defending stretch fives all season long and Lopez lives outside of the paint on offense.  Look for another big performance at a very nice price tag from Lopez.


Jusuf Nurkic will likely be the chalk center option tonight and he is a very strong play.  The total in the Portland game is the highest on the slate and the Rockets play at a fast pace and can struggle to defend the paint.  Nurkic is in the top ten in points, assists and rebounds per 36 minutes among starting centers since joining the Blazers and the increased possessions should help him.  Since joining Portland, Nurkic has a 25.4 usage rate and per-36 averages of 18.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.  He is also averaging 1.5 steals and 2.4 blocks per 36.  He is truly a five-category player and has a ton of upside in this pace-up matchup where there will not be much defense played.


Secondary: D’Angelo Russell, Devin Booker (questionable), T.J. Warren, Julius Randle, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan (much stronger on DraftKings)


Value ($3,000-$5,400)


Ish Smith has played at least 30 minutes in each of his last two games and Reggie Jackson has already been ruled out of this one as well.  The Nets have been a matchup to target all season long and today is no exception.  Brooklyn has been much better on the defensive end of late, ranking 13th in defensive rating this month, but they still play at an extremely fast pace which will allow Smith to pick up plenty of fantasy points.  Since the start of March, Brooklyn ranks 26th in points allowed, 26th in steals allowed and 27th in rebounds allowed per 36 minutes to opposing guards.


Kris Dunn is back to being a point guard on FanDuel, but it did come with a price drop.  He has been playing alongside Ricky Rubio to close games for Minnesota and has averaged 28.3 minutes per game over his last four- including an overtime game against the Lakers.  He has gotten fourth quarter run regardless of if the game is close or a blowout as it seems the ‘Wolves want to see what they have in their possible point guard of the future.  He has not had a true blow-up game, so he may still go under the radar, but he has plenty of upside at his current price in this matchup against the Lakers.


J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton are all interesting options tonight against the Suns with Austin Rivers sidelined.  Redick and Crawford already have stable roles in the rotation and should see a few more minutes now without Felton.  They are both strong options at a weak shooting guard position as Redick should see over 30 minutes and Crawford should see close to 30.  Felton is riskier, but could see plenty of run tonight as well against a small Phoenix team.  Felton played 24 minutes in the only game this season that he played without Rivers while Paul and Griffin were both healthy.  Paul Pierce and Alan Anderson are both active now, however, and they could each pick up a couple of minutes to eat into Felton’s totals.  Felton did not see a boost after Rivers’ injury yesterday, making him a risky option with upside- which is someone worth considering on a small slate.


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is incredibly frustrating because he can disappear for games at a time, but he has a very nice matchup against the Nets.  He is someone that we like to target in pace-up games where he can pick up defensive stats and do damage in transition.  The Nets certainly fit that description and he has done well against them so far this season, recording 34.2 and 29.5 DraftKings points in his first two meetings.  In addition, Caldwell-Pope gets a boost playing alongside Ish Smith compared to Reggie Jackson.  He has a 22.8 percent usage rate and is averaging 0.84 DraftKings points per minute in 1204.1 minutes alongside Smith without Jackson this season, compared to a 17 percent usage rate and 0.59 DraftKings points per minute in 1030.3 minutes alongside Jackson without Smith.


Lou Williams is a high-upside option off the bench in a small matchup against the Blazers.  Williams has played 31 and 32 minutes in his two games without Ryan Anderson and has attepted 15 and 14 field goals respectively.  He is scoring dependent as always, but he should benefit from being the primary scoring option against a weak Portland bench.


Mo Harkless is your five-game slate tournament play.  Harkless does very well against the Rockets as they rely on him to defend James Harden and he consistently sees plenty of minutes.  His minutes have trended down lately due to foul trouble and Evan Turner’s return to the lineup, but he should be available at low ownership tonight and is the absolute minimum on FanDuel.  Harkless averaged 18.7 minutes per game last season, but saw 24.1 minutes per game in four games against the Rockets.  In two games this season, Harkless has played 31.3 and 38.1 minutes.  Over those six games, Harkless is averaging 0.99 DraftKings points per minute.  The other wings on the Blazers (Turner, Aminu and Vonleh) are in good spots as well, but Harkless can win a tournament for you if he is able to stay out of foul trouble tonight.


Gorgui Dieng appears to have re-solidified his role in the rotation.  Concerns of him losing minutes to Shabazz Muhammad seem to be a thing of the past, as he has played at least 30 minutes in seven of his last eight games, including 39 minutes in an overtime game against the Lakers where he produced 32.5 DraftKings points.  Roster him with confidence in a great matchup, particularly on FanDuel where he is just $5,200.


Secondary: Eric Gordon, Paul Zipser, Evan Turner, Sam Dekker, Jon Leuer, Tobias Harris, Larry Nance, Nikola Mirotic, Marquese Chriss, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Alex Len